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Washington Court Rejects Voluntary Intoxication Defense

Many criminal statutes require the State to prove that a defendant possessed a certain mental state during the commission of the crime. If the State cannot establish that the defendant had the required state of mind when an offense was allegedly committed, then the defendant should not be found guilty. Recently, a Washington court discussed whether a defendant could argue that he lacked the requisite mental state to violate a domestic violence no-contact order due to voluntary intoxication in a case in which the defendant was charged with numerous crimes. If you live in Washington and are accused of a crime of domestic violence, it is advisable to consult a trusted Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss what defenses you may be able to assert.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the defendant was subject to two separate domestic violence no-contact orders that barred him from contacting his former girlfriend with whom he shared a child. Specifically, the orders stated that the defendant was not permitted to communicate with his former girlfriend except to discuss custody exchanges, and prohibited him from coming within 1,000 feet of her, her school, work, or home. While the orders were in effect, the former girlfriend found the defendant in her living room in the early morning.

Allegedly, the defendant appeared to be intoxicated and was crying and mumbling. He then swallowed a bottle of pills and lost consciousness, after which the former girlfriend called the police. The defendant was ultimately charged with multiple offenses, including two counts of a felony violation of a domestic violence order. During the trial, the defendant requested an instruction on the defense of involuntary intoxication, which the court denied. The jury convicted the defendant, after which he appealed, arguing in part that the trial court erred in denying his request.

Voluntary Intoxication as a Defense Under Washington Law

On appeal, the appellate court clarified that a defendant is not entitled to a jury instruction if there is no evidence supporting a proposed defense, and as the defendant failed to demonstrate evidence of involuntary intoxication, the instruction was not warranted in the subject case. Specifically, the court stated that under Washington law, a defendant seeking an involuntary intoxication defense must show that the State must prove the defendant possessed a particular mental state in order to convict the defendant of the charged offense.

The defendant also has to prove that there is significant evidence that the defendant consumed an intoxicant, as well as evidence that the effects of the intoxicant impacted the defendant’s ability to form the mental state required to commit the crime. In the subject case, the court found that while the defendant needed to have a certain mental state to violate the no-contact orders, there was no evidence he was intoxicated at the time he committed the crimes, or that any alleged intoxication affected his ability to form intent. As such, the lower court ruling was affirmed.

Speak to an Experienced Washington Attorney

Violating a domestic violence no-contact order is a serious crime that can carry significant penalties. If you are charged with a crime of domestic violence, the experienced Washington domestic violence defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White have the knowledge and skills needed to assist you in formulating a strategy that will help you seek a favorable outcome. We can be reached through our online form or at 253-203-1645 to set up a conference.

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